Adama Traore watches the ball while playing for FC Barcelona in the La Liga match against Cadiz, which Barcelona lost 0-1. Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain. 18 April 2022

Oriol Romeu next: 8 La Masia graduates who returned to Barcelona

Oriol Romeu will reportedly rejoin his boyhood club Barcelona in the coming days. The defensive midfielder developed his skills in the club’s famous academy but only made a couple of first-team appearances before he left for Chelsea in 2011.

The 31-year-old went on to make over 250 appearances for Southampton before returning to Catalonia with Girona last summer. He’s on the verge of rejoining Barcelona, with reports suggesting that Pablo Torre will move to Girona on loan in return.

But Romeu won’t be the first Blaugrana academy grad to move back to Camp Nou. In fact, he has joined a long list of players whose career paths have seen them return to Barcelona. Here are eight other La Masia graduates who left Barcelona only to return later in their careers.

Hector Bellerin

The right-back’s a sucker for a romantic return. He developed his skills at La Masia before making his name at Arsenal and was tears after joining Real Betis – the club his father raised him to support – on loan in 2022.

Arsenal then terminated Bellerin’s contract to allow him to join Barcelona on the final day of the summer 2022 transfer window. However, he made just seven appearances for the La Liga giants before his contract was terminated once again.

The 28-year-old spent the latter half of last season at Sporting Lisbon but is now a free agent once again. He’s been closely linked with a return to Betis.

Adama Traore

You may well have forgotten that Traore was even a La Masia graduate before he rocked back up at Camp Nou on loan last season, baby oil in hand.

But he was. He even played four times for the senior team before moving to Aston Villa in 2015.

The loan move from Wolves started brightly too, the Spain international putting in a couple of barnstorming displays early on. But he faded badly and Barca didn’t take up their option to recruit him permanently last summer. He’s now a free agent if Xavi fancies taking him back once again.

Gerard Pique

Pique is potentially the most ‘Did you know that he used to play for X?’ player in the world.

The answer is yes, everyone knows Pique used to play for Manchester United. But what you might not know is that Wayne Rooney thinks he returned to Barcelona in 2008 because of… Bolton?

“Bolton away more or less finished Gerard Pique’s career at United,” Rooney said. “He was young and got bullied there and I think that’s when Fergie decided that, physically, he wasn’t right for the Premier League.”

Jordi Alba

In 2005 Alba was released by the Barcelona academy for being too small. Presumably all of the growth hormones had to be stockpiled for Lionel Messi.

But that didn’t stop the full-back from playing for a local Catalan team where he was eventually picked up by Valencia.

As with many on this list, eventually Barcelona accepted they had been wrong. They re-signed the Spanish international in 2012, with his height no longer an issue. The move worked out alright for him, didn’t it?

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas has got life worked out. After a few years by the Med in Monaco, last summer he moved to Serie B side Como, in the glorious Italian Alps, with shares in the club included in the deal that took him there. He’s recently hung up his boots and it’ll be fascinating to see how his fledgeling coaching career progresses.

Who could forget the long-running transfer saga that eventually ended in 2011? Fabregas returned home from Arsenal after what felt like forever.

Fabregas’ failed to win the Champions League during his three years back in Catalonia, with the club winning it the seasons before and after he left. He wasn’t a glittering success there, but he did win La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

“Looking back now, I probably should have waited a bit longer until Xavi’s performances faded. I should have gone there to take his place,” Fabregas recalled earlier this year.

“But due to the frustration of so many years without winning at Arsenal and feeling that sometimes the club wasn’t making the right signings, I was getting overwhelmed and decided to leave.”


Luis Garcia

Garcia developed through the La Masia system but was loaned out four times until Barcelona decided they didn’t want him.

He moved to Atletico Madrid in 2002 but after one impressive season, Barcelona decided that no, sorry, they did in fact want him and he was re-signed thanks to a buy-back clause.

Yet one year later, you guessed it, the Catalan club changed their mind once more. They sold him to Liverpool where he was reunited with Rafa Benitez who he had played under on loan at Tenerife.

Nothing of note happened in Liverpool’s 2004-05 season of course…

Eric Garcia

Garcia left Barcelona in 2017 to join Manchester City’s youth academy but returned in the summer of 2020, garnering comparisons to Pique.

“Returning to Barcelona is a brave move,” he has since said, which is something of an understatement. It hasn’t proved easy, either, with Garcia’s performances coming under fire.

But Xavi loves him. In April 2022, he told a press conference: “We’re very happy with Eric.

“He’s not as tall as, let’s say [Ronald] Araujo, but his leadership qualities… He’s excellent. He’s committed. He’s also great at working with the ball.

“Garcia will be great for Barca in many years to come.”

It’s not been smooth sailing since then. Despite Xavi’s faith and encouragement, the jury remains out on whether the centre-back is quite at Barcelona’s level.

Gerard Deulofeu

Deulofeu was tipped for big things, but struggled for game time after graduating from La Masia to the senior side and eventually left permanently for Everton in 2015.

Yet thanks to a release clause he returned to Catalonia in summer 2017… only to move to Watford six months later in January 2018.

In total, he made just 12 La Liga appearances for the club across his two stints.

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